Reviews |Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2

Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 Review

Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 review
Review

Price when reviewed

£249

$296.95
Check current price

Our Verdict

At just under £249/$300 the Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 is a great-value lens. It has a couple of quirks but it generally produces very good quality images and it’s a lovely size and weight. It’s perfect for popping on your Nikon mirrorless camera when you’re going for a walk or taking a bit of time out.

One of the complaints I hear most often about full-frame mirrorless cameras is that the lenses are big, heavy and expensive. The Nikon Z 40mm f/2 is none of those and it makes a lovely addition to your kit.

For

  • Good image quality
  • Weather-sealed
  • Light and compact

Against

  • No focus scale
  • Single control ring
  • AF struggles near the closest focus distance

What is the Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2?

The Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 is a full-frame (FX) format lens designed for use on Nikon’s Z-series cameras such as the the Nikon Z7 II, Nikon Z6 II and Nikon Z5. As Nikon uses the Z mount on its full-frame and APS-C format cameras, it can also be used on the Nikon Zfc and Nikon Z50 where it has an effective focal length of 60mm.

A focal length of 40mm is often referred to as a ‘standard’ or ‘normal’ lens as it has an angle of view close to that of our eyes. It’s a popular focal length of video while 35mm or 50mm is traditionally more popular for photography.

The Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 can be ordered from B&H Photo Video and Wex Photo Video.

Specification

  • Product type: Standard prime lens
  • Announced: 14th September 2021
  • Mount: Nikon Z
  • Format: Full-frame (FX)
  • Focal length: 40mm (60mm on APS-C format)
  • Maximum aperture: f/2
  • Minimum aperture: f/16
  • Construction: 6 elements in 4 groups with 2 aspherical elements
  • Coatings:
  • Focusing system: Internal
  • Minimum focus distance: 29cm / 0.96ft
  • Maximum reproduction ratio: 0.17x
  • Stabilisation: No (in-camera only)
  • Number of diaphragm blades: 9
  • Filter size: 52mm
  • Weight: 170g / 6oz
  • Diameter x length (extension from lens mount): 70 x 45.5mm / 2.8 x 1.8-inches
Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 review

Features

The Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f2 is a relatively simple lens and it’s constructed from 6 elements in 4 groups. Amongst those elements there are 2 aspherical lenses which help maintain image quality across the frame while reducing the number of elements that would be otherwise required.

As seems to be standard these days, the aperture is created from a 9-blade iris with each blade being curved to make the bokeh more attractive.

Nikon has given the Z 40mm f/2 a stepping motor to handle the autofocusing, which promises to be swift, accurate and silent to suit photographers and videographers alike. The closest focusing distance is 29cm (0.96-foot) from the sensor at which the maximum reproduction ratio is 0.17x.

There’s no stabilisation  built into the lens and instead photographers and videographers must rely on their Nikon camera’s sensor-shifting Vibration Reduction (VR) stabilisation system.

Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 review

Build and handling

Despite its sub-£250/$300 price tag, the Nikon Z 40mm f/2 is sealed against moisture and dust, so it doesn’t have to be saved for use on dry-weather days.

Perhaps with budget and weight in mind, however, it has a plastic barrel and lens mount. But that doesn’t mean that it feels cheap or flimsy, it actually feels nicely made and at 170g/6oz about the ‘right’ weight.

At 45.5mm or 1.8-inches in length and 70mm or 2.8-inches in diameter it looks great on a full-frame Nikon Z-series camera like the Z7 II, but it’s also a good size for an APS-C format model like the Z50 or Zfc. I tested it on the Z7 II and it’s perfect for one-handed photography, but the control ring is ideally positioned for use as you rest the camera in you left hand while holding the grip with your right.

There’s only one ring on the Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 and as usual with Nikon Z-mount lenses, it can be set to adjust aperture, exposure compensation, focus or ISO when the camera is set to autofocus mode. If the camera is set to manual focusing, the ring defaults back to its traditional function – focusing.

The ring moves smoothly and can be rotated with pressure from just one finger or your thumb.

As there’s no switch on the lens, the focus mode is set via the camera. In manual focus mode, a distance scale pops up on the screen or in the viewfinder when the control ring is moved. This doesn’t appear when the camera is set to autofocus mode and the ring is set to adjust focus manually (M/A in the Controls section of the Custom Setting Menu).

Pressing the magnify button on the back of the camera enlarges the area of the image under the selected AF point to make it easier to focus manually.

Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 review

Performance

While it doesn’t hit the same level of performance as Nikon’s S-line lenses, the Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 is no slouch and there’s a good level of sharpness throughout its aperture range. If you check the far corners of images captured at f/2 at 100% on a computer screen you’ll see that they are softer than the centre, but it’s not problematic at normal viewing sizes or in most real-world shooting situations.

Closing down to f/2.8 makes a significant difference to the corner sharpness and by f/4, it’s very good. The best results are seen in the range f/4-f/11, with the f/8 being particularly impressive, but I’d happily use the entire f/2-16 range.

It’s worth activating the Nikon camera’s Vignette Control as this reduces the amount of corner shading that’s visible at larger apertures, however, I didn’t see much change between the different Vignette Control levels and use ‘Normal’ as my default setting.

Closing down from f/2 to f/2.8 removes most of the corner shading, but if you switch quickly between images of an identical scene shot at different apertures you’ll see the corners continue to brighten as you close down further to f/5.6. I don’t find the degree of vignetting objectionable at f/2 when the Vignetter Control is at Normal, but it can be obvious without the in-camera control. However, it can also be removed using the profile correction that’s available in Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom.

Without the in-camera or software profile being applied, there’s a very slight hint of barrel distortion visible in images shot using the Z 40mm f/2, but it’s not worth worrying about and the profiles eliminate it anyway.

For the most part, the Nikon Z 40mm f/2 focuses quickly and accurately, and it’s compatible with the camera’s Eye detection AF, but on a few occasions it failed to respond to a close subject and stayed focussed at infinity. I found a quick solution was to hold my hand a little further away than the subject and focus on it before taking my hand away, recomposing the shot and half-pressing the shutter release again to focus on the intended subject. Another option is to switch to manual focusing or, if you have the control ring set to M/A, you can adjust the focus directly.

Once the lens is in the right zone, it focuses quite quickly on close subjects, but if it’s focussed a long way off, it can struggle.

There’s also a little focus breathing. It’s not bad, but if you’re shooting a subject that’s moving towards or away from you, you’re likely to spot a slight changing in the framing.

Nikon doesn’t supply a lens hood with the Z 40mm f/2 and I was concerned that flare might be an issue, especially with the low sun at this time of year (November in the UK). Thankfully, it’s not a major issue when the sun is outside the frame. However, if the sun is in the frame, it’s worth having a second look just to make sure that it’s not causing problem elsewhere in the image as I noticed a couple of purple orbs that would be very difficult to remove post-capture.

Chromatic aberration is also controlled pretty well and I only found a few subtle examples in images of backlit tree branches. As is often the case, these were easy to remove using the Defringe tool in Adobe Camera Raw, it takes no more than a few seconds.

The rounded 9-blade aperture of the Z 40mm f/2 does its job well and out of focus areas look good. Small highlights are circular even close to the corners of the image and there’s just a suggestion of the soap bubble effect (a defined ring around the edge).

Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 sample images

Follow the link to browse and download full-resolution images from the Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 on the Nikon Z7 II.

Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 image gallery

Verdict

I have to admit that I’m rather smitten by the Nikon Nikkor 40mm f/2. It makes a great pairing with Nikon Z7 II, or any of Nikon’s other full-frame Z-series cameras. It’s compact and lightweight yet weather-sealed and it generally focusses quickly, so it’s a versatile optic that makes a great choice for a day out.

Okay, it has a plastic construction and there are no frills, but it delivers surprisingly good image quality for the impressively low price tag so you don’t feel like you’re making a major compromise.

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Troy Phillips
Troy Phillips
1 year ago

I too really like this lens . I am not yet into the Nikon mirrorless system.
I like most all the new Z bodies native lenses. But the 40 f/2.0, 28 f/2.8 and the 105 f/2.8 macro all have me intrigued. The 28mm is similar to the old ais 28mm f/2.8 . Quality image , simple and I just like that focal length but nothing super special. The 40 f/2 is special with just 6 elements in 4 groups for great microcontrast and then has just enough character . And the 105 I believe will be considered legendary. Nikon optically is killing it and now the Z9!!! Nuf said Go Nikon

Rob
Rob
1 year ago

I’m lucky enough to own the ‘holy trinity’ of Z f/2.8 zooms but I also own this lens, for all the times when I just want a light walkabout setup, or perhaps when the situation calls for a little more discretion than a huge zoom can afford. It’s roughly the size of my old 50mm f/1.4G and weighs less. I’m hardly going to mount 100mm filters to it (lol) but it suits candid snaps just fine, handles low light well enough, and produces a fairly nice bokeh too. I’m in danger of giving the impression that this lens is ‘just fine’ but actually I find it sharper than a lot of F-mount primes I used to keep in my bag, tucked away, not getting used a lot. By contrast, this lens gets used a lot already.

The 40mm f/2 might not have the weather sealing, or the metal mount, or the hood… but it certainly manages to turn out an impressive performance. Pixel-peepers may disagree, but this has got to be one of the best value-for-money lens in the entire Z ecosystem.

Last edited 1 year ago by Rob